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Child care, experts, and parents: historical trends


NB Language spoken in course is Dutch unless English-speaking students participate

Admission requirements

Thematically, this course is linked to the Bachelor course Opvoedingsvoorlichting, preventie en interventie.


In this course we highlight historical trends in advice to parents about child raising. Since a few centuries, parents are assisted by so-called experts who provide them with guidelines as to how to bring up their children. Clergymen, medical doctors, pedagogues, and, increasingly, psychologists have voiced strong opinions about mundane matters such as bedtime tantrums and toilet training. It was repeatedly suggested that bringing up a child is too difficult a task for ordinary parents. Meanwhile, the experts themselves differed in opinion and their counsel did not always rest upon solid scientific research. It will be shown that advice was influenced by such currents as psychoanalysis and behaviorism and that it changed when new concepts became fashionable or new technologies became available. Evidently, much allegedly scientific advice was based upon no more than contemporary culture-bound opinion.

Course objectives

Achievement levels: 1-12.



Mode of instruction


Assessment method



During this course Blackboard will be used.

Reading list

  • Christina Hardyment (2007). Dream babies: Childcare advice from John Locke to Gina Ford. London.

  • Daniel Beekman (1997). The mechanical baby: a popular history of the theory and practice of child raising. Westport.


Please note that separate uSis registration is mandatory for lectures, seminars, exams and re-exams. Student who do not register, cannot attend courses or take exams.


  • Registration for the lectures of the course is possible as of two months through one week before the first lecture at the latest;

  • Registration for the seminars of the course is possible as of two months through one week before the first seminar at the latest.


Student must register for each exam through uSis. This is only possible until 10 calendar days before the exam. More information on exam registration

Contact information

During this course prof. dr. R. van der Veer holds offices on Monday (16.00 tot 17.00).